Drinking More Than Champagne From a Slipper

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to bring out the best in your team. Reading time: 3:23.

        The executive offered a champagne toast, sipping the bubbly out of one of her high heel shoes. Her staff was astounded as she playfully kicked off her shoe; reached into a box of new shoes; held one of the new patent leather shoes as if it were a glass and began pouring the champagne in it.

      Maybe the strain of the highly stressful but successful project just completed had finally gotten the best of her.

      “You are the best. You deserve more than a traditional toast for all the work you did in making this project a success.”

       The executive had a method to her madness. She used the champagne-in-a-slipper toast as a leadership lesson that few ever have forgotten.

       Turns out those fairy tale writers may have been on to something when they told of heroes drinking out of a slipper.

       Scientists say the leather in the slipper accentuates the flavor and aroma of the champagne. The leather contains nitrogen which brings out the best flavor in the champagne.

       That’s what leaders do. They bring out the best in others. They build teams two by two. It all begins with that first pairing, that first combination of talents that stirs the creative pot and brings out the best in each.

      Savor some peanuts and chocolate together or German Beer and black radishes or a martini and an olive and you’ll taste the leadership difference –where protein taste agents bring out the best in the carbohydrates.

     Continue reading “Drinking More Than Champagne From a Slipper”

Partnering Power: How Sweet It Is

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you strengthen your partnerships. Reading time: 4:42.

           As a reporter with the Miami Herald in 1975, I met Jackie Gleason in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when he was promoting a professional golf tournament, the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic. He was honing his golf swing to host President Jerry Ford in a celebrity round with legendary entertainer Bob Hope and the greatest professional golfer at the time, Jack Nicklaus.

          And that sunny February morning Jackie Gleason taught me a leadership lesson I never expected and never have forgotten over these last 37 yearsl

Jackie Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners.
Jackie Gleason and Art Carney in The Honeymooners

      The Great One. That’s what the television entertainment world called Jackie Gleason. And no wonder. After all, he hosted  television programs in the 1950s-60s that dominated the airwaves —from The Honeymooners to The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS — and made loud-mouth Ralph Kramden the most famous bus driver in New York.

       In fact,  the first time I heard Jackie Gleason’s voice live and in person on the golf course, he sounded more like the boisterous and cantakerous Ralph Kramden in the The Honeymooners who would yell at his wife: “Straight to the Moon, Alice.”

        Jackie Gleason was mad as hell. He stood about 50 yards away from me on the driving range. Gleason yelled at my photographer to stop taking photos (“Hey Pal, not now!”).  The Great One demanded to be left alone to concentrate on his golf swing.

      By the time I could intervene and introduce myself as something more than a pesky fan, I figured Ralph Kramden would also kick me “straight to the moon” when I requested an interview. Maybe I could hope he’d settle for just making one of his patented threats: “One of these days… POW!!! Right in the kisser!” I was wrong. In fact, Jackie Gleason taught me a lesson in leadership that surprised me, especially after I saw first hand how self-absorbed and arrogant he appeared to be based in his personal behavior during a practice round of golf. Continue reading “Partnering Power: How Sweet It Is”

To Get Ahead Lead From Behind

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

 Here’s an idea to help you lead your team more effectively with less effort. Reading time: 2:34.

         Relax, dear reader. Take off your shoes and socks.  Sit back and put your bare foot up on your desk or on the dash board the next time you’re a passenger in a vehicle. Then focus on your big toe. Now concentrate on your four other toes.

        And ponder this caption that John Long posed to his Lumpy Gravy comic strip readers as they looked at the exact picture you are looking at right now: your big toe and four other toes all in a row on your bare foot. The caption read:

     “What the big toe thinks about: I don’t know if I’m at the front of the line or the back.”

       Leaders know. The big toe is at the back.

      The most effective leaders I have known lead from the rear.  In fact in his autobiography, Nelson Mandela equates the behavior of a shepherd with the actions of a great leader.

    The shepherd stays behind the flock  “letting the most nimble” sheep  go out ahead ” whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

        Indeed, leading from behind is  critical especially in spearheading innovative behavior, observes Nancy Hill, writing in the Harvard Business Review, 

   Continue reading “To Get Ahead Lead From Behind”

Teamwork: Bottling the Champagne of Sparkling Diversity

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

 Here’s an idea to help you enhance the productivity of  your teams.

More than 49 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne

           Dom Perignon. Uncork a bottle of that champagne and you uncork the vitality, the effervescence, the bubbly genius of innovative teamwork that we can still learn from today, more than 300 years after the Benedictine monk invented his namesake champagne and virtually created the FIZZ BIZ –the champagne industry.

       Before Dom Perignon there was only the fizzle biz where champagne would quickly lose its bubbles (carbonation) and its taste.

       How did the  famous winemaker from the Champagne region in northeastern France use his leadership and teamwork skills to become the first winemaker to produce and maintain more than 49 million tasty bubbles in every bottle of champagne that no doubt has tickled the noses of most world’s leaders for the last century or more?

      After careful research –tasting Dom Perignon over the years at many a leadership toasts (hey, tough work but someone’s got to do it)—and studying the history of the Fizz Biz long before the Cola Wars – I’ve discerned at least three insights from Dom Perignon on innovative teamwork that might work in your organizations too. Continue reading “Teamwork: Bottling the Champagne of Sparkling Diversity”

Customer Leadership Mint #1: Staying Relevant

This is the 1st of a 10-part series on Customer Leadership.

In this LEADERSHIP MINTS series, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Steelcase Inc. (founded March 16, 1912) and salute Customer Leaders (a.k.a employees) who have consistently driven Steelcase Inc  as the worldwide, office-furniture industry leader for most of its 100 years serving/leading customers.  Today let’s examine Customer Leadership from an historical perspective at Steelcase Inc., the $2.4 billion company, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

            Here’s an example of meeting a customer’s specific need.

           How do you lead your industry let alone stay in business for 100 years? Stay relevant. Especially in customer-izing your products or services to serve a specific customer need –from Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight to collaborating with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to playing a supporting role when General Douglas MacArthur acceped the Japanese surrender ceremony ending World War II.

Steelcase outfitted Charles Lindbergh's touring plane with a customized desk he used to sign autographs.

         That’s the customer leadership performance that we begin examining today with a series of 10 Leadership Mints over the next 10 business days. These Leadership Mints, short stories on customer leadership, are designed to freshen our bottom-line thinking on business success that Steelcase Inc. has earned en route to celebrating its 100th anniversary in March.

     “If ever a company marched to its own drummer, this one does– and in perfect step.”

         More than 25 years ago, Forbes Magazine cited Steelcase Inc. –the world’s leading office furniture maker – for its unique leadership style in a 5-page story titled “The Steel Behind Steelcase” in the October 7, 1985 issue. “If ever a company marched to its own drummer, this one does—and in perfect step,” opined editor James Michaels. “All very sui generis.”

           Consider these historical highlights:

         The year: 1927. The place: Paris. The event: Charles Lindbergh soars the Atlantic. Lucky Lindy pilots his Spirit of St. Louis 33.5 hours over 3,610 miles of ocean from New York– the first solo pilot across the Atlantic. And after his triumphant flight, he celebrated with a promotional tour across the United States. When Charles Lindbergh came to Grand Rapids, Steelcase Inc. was there, outfitting his touring plane with a customized desk.

            Continue reading “Customer Leadership Mint #1: Staying Relevant”